A long but important read! Politicians Are Making Schools Less Safe And Ruining Education For Everyone Paul Sperry March 14, 2015 | 8:25pm A fight at Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan was caught on cellphone video in 2012. Under a new city school discipline policy, such incidents could result in counseling, not suspensions. New York public-school students caught stealing, doing drugs or even attacking someone can avoid suspension under new “progressive” discipline rules adopted this month. Most likely, they will be sent to a talking circle instead, where they can discuss their feelings. Convinced traditional discipline is racist because blacks are suspended at higher rates than whites, New York City’s Department of Education has in all but the most serious and dangerous offenses replaced out-of-school suspensions with a touchy-feely alternative punishment called “restorative justice,” which isn’t really punishment at all. It’s therapy. “Every reasonable effort must be made to correct student behavior through…restorative practices,” advises the city’s new 32-page discipline code. Except everywhere it’s been tried, this softer approach has backfired. Yes, other large urban school districts are reporting fewer suspensions since adopting the non-punitive approach. But that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer infractions. In fact, many districts are seeing more classroom disruptions and violence — a national trend that ought to set off warning bells for New York school officials. What’s more, the movement — which is driven by new race-based anti-discipline guidelines issued by the Obama administration — is creating friction between teachers unions and the liberal mayors they otherwise support. Politicians can praise the new system, but it’s teachers who must deal with the disruptive and sometimes violent results. ‘You have to have consequences’ Last month, for instance, the Chicago Teachers Union complained the city’s revised student-discipline code has left teachers struggling to control unruly kids. “It’s just basically been a totally lawless few months,” one teacher told the Chicago Tribune. Chicago Mayor Rahm EmanuelPhoto: AP In June, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the district, as part of a “Suspension and Expulsion Reduction Plan,” was “moving away from a zero-tolerance policy and promoting restorative practices.” Students who bully classmates can no longer be removed from classrooms except for the worst offenses, and only then with the consent of a district supervisor. Just as Mayor de Blasio promised last month in announcing New York’s revised discipline policy, Emanuel assured skeptics the more “holistic” approach — which he says addresses the “root causes” of bad behavior — would still provide “a safe learning environment.” But so far this school year, the Tribune reports students have suffered little consequence for infractions as serious as groping a teacher and bringing hollow-point bullets to class. “You have to have consequences,” Chicago fifth-grade teacher John Engels told the paper. “If you knew the cops weren’t going to enforce the speed limit…you’d go 100 miles an hour.” In Syracuse, meanwhile, teachers complain student behavior has worsened since the school district collapsed discipline structures in favor of restorative justice practices. They say teens are more apt to fight, mouth off to teachers and roam the halls under the more lenient policy. They’re even seeing increasingly violent behavior among elementary school children. While the approach may be “laudable,” Syracuse Teachers Association President Kevin Ahern said in a recent letter to the Syracuse Post-Standard, it has created a “systemic inability to administer and enforce consistent consequences for violent and highly disruptive student behaviors” that “put students and staff at risk and make quality instruction impossible.” ‘Kids control the classroom’ Los Angeles Unified School District is seeing a similar spike in campus offenses after its school superintendent followed federal orders to reduce suspensions of African-Americans. Even threats against teachers are ignored, as administrators’ hands are tied by the new policy. “I was terrified and bullied by a fourth-grade student,” a teacher at a Los Angeles Unified School District school recently noted on the Los Angeles Times website. “The black student told me to ‘Back off, b—h.’ I told him to go to the office and he said, ‘No, b—h, and no one can make me.’ ” I’m going to torture you. I’m doing this because I can’t be removed. - One student to teacher Allen Zollman Complained another LAUSD teacher: “We now have a ‘restorative justice’ counselor, but we still have the same problems. Kids aren’t even suspended for fights or drugs.” In neighboring Orange County, teachers are dealing with increasingly violent and disrespectful student behavior since schools there also switched to the restorative strategy. Recently mandated “positive interventions” have only exacerbated discipline problems in the largely minority Santa Ana public school district, where middle-school kids now regularly smoke pot in bathrooms — some even in class — and attack staff — spitting on teachers, pelting them with eggs, even threatening to stab them, according to the Orange County Register. According to a recent teachers union survey, 65 percent of Santa Ana educators said the softer discipline system is not working. Dozens of teachers have filed hostile-work-environment complaints. Defiance toward teachers is on the rise in Philadelphia public schools, as well, where talking circles have replaced suspensions. A former Philly middle-school teacher complains minority students act out and then dare teachers to kick them out of class, knowing full well their hands are now tied. “I’m going to torture you,” Allen Zollman says one student told him. “I’m doing this because I can’t be removed.” Knowing there won’t be consequences, bullies control the classroom and disrupt lessons for all kids who want to learn. “The less we are willing or able to respond, the more they will control the classroom, the hallways and the school,” Zollman added in testimony before the US Commission on Civil Rights. Blaming the teachers The administration welcomes this “Lord of the Flies” scenario. Thanks to talking circles and peer juries, “young people are now taking control of the environment,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan gushed in a 2014 speech to black students at Howard University. “It’s sort of a counterintuitive thing for many of us as adults, but the more we give up power, the more we empower others, often the better things are,” Duncan added. “And empowering teenagers to be part of the solution, having them control the [classroom] environment, control the culture, be the leaders, listening to them, respecting them — when we do that, wonderful things happen for kids in communities that didn’t happen historically.” Just weeks after “empowering teenagers,” San Diego public schools witnessed a surge in violent assaults. At Lincoln High School, for example, students reported frequent campus fighting. In just one recent month, there were several arrests, including one involving a butcher knife, according to local TV news reports. School officials confirm at least 16 batteries in just the first few months of the school year. Violence is still a problem in Oakland schools after officials there substituted such restorative counseling for suspensions on similar orders from Obama educrats. “There have been serious threats against teachers,” Oakland High School science teacher Nancy Caruso told the Christian Science Monitor, and yet the students weren’t expelled. She notes a student who set another student’s hair on fire received a “restorative” talk in lieu of suspension. High school student Myriah Brisco, 14, (left) and her mother, Ramona Roberson, comment on their restorative justice class at the Augustus F. Hawkins High School in Los Angeles.Photo: AP Yet the administration is holding up Oakland’s new discipline program as a national model. Little wonder: Teacher training for the program, led by Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, includes sessions titled, “Race and Restorative Justice” and “African-Centered Restorative Justice Approaches.” After spending millions on restorative justice and “courageous conversations about race” training, Portland public schools have seen their students only grow more violent. After a black high-school boy repeatedly punched his teacher in the face, sending her to the emergency room, the teacher, who is white, was advised by the assistant principal not to press charges. The administrator lectured her about how hard it is for young black men to overcome a criminal record. Worse, she was told she should examine what role she, “as a white woman” holding unconscious racial biases, played in the attack, according to the Willamette (Oregon) Week. A white sixth-grade teacher at a mostly black Washington, DC, school told the US Commission on Civil Rights she had similar “conversations” in which she was told that the bad behavior of black boys is mainly the teacher’s fault. “I have been encouraged to examine and question how my own racial dispositions affect my teaching and my students,” Andrea Smith testified.